The funnybook revolution | Ryan Scicluna

Hoping to add some life and relevance to our public libraries, Ryan Scicluna tells us why he’s started a  crowdfunding campaign to help create Malta’s first Graphic Novel Library

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
29 June 2016, 8:00am
Ryan Scicluna
Ryan Scicluna
Comics Librarian: Origins

“At one point, I was looking at the large comic book collection I had amassed over the years, I realised that I only read the material once and then, I leave it to gather dust on the shelf. Being a librarian by profession I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be more beneficial if others could also read my collection? So in 2013 I started to look for comics at the public library and checking if comic donations were accepted. I discovered that there were none. I made some research on the matter only to find out that in other countries, graphic novels and comics are the most borrowed material from public libraries.

“But before I could approach the library and ask them to buy comics for their collection, it dawned to me that unless a proper section is created, this material would be lost and forgotten. So first, I needed to create a demand for comics and graphic novels at the public library, which would then lead library patrons to ask for the material. This would also be used to promote the Junior’s Library collection and encourage more people to read. However, I realized I could not tackle this alone – I needed help from others. I surrounded myself with a number of other fellow comic book fans and together, we created the NGO known as Graphic Novels Library Malta (GNLM).”

Education through pop culture… but not just

“Our aim is to use pop culture for educational purposes. We started organizing events and discussions about various topics, such as Batman and the philosophy/psychology of the character and his villains, the motive behind the story of V for Vendetta, how comics can be used in the classrooms and help educate children, creating comics workshops, and so on. The NGO, thanks to the Centre for Literacy and the National Curriculum Centre, has given a number of presentations to teachers, students and learning support assistants on the use of comics as a learning aid.

“GNLM also participates in events organised by other entities such as secondary schools mini comic cons, which are organised by enthusiastic teachers within their school. We then approached the Public Library and asked them to create a section of graphic novels for their junior’s collection. Cheryl Falzon, the National Librarian, decided to give it a try and in 2014 a number of comics were bought for the library. We are currently still working to expand this section and at the same time promote the organisation locally to guide and help people use comics for various purposes: because comics are not just for children.

“Something that comics do, whether you are reading it at one’s own leisure or for academic purposes is that they teach literacies indirectly, and expose readers to different storytelling techniques. When reading a comics book you are exposed to different understandings, learning styles and behaviors. One can focus on the text first and then look at the images or vice versa. When looking at a panel one is also looking at scene composition, the transition between one panel and another – the illusion of passing time.”

Read more: World leaders vs villains at Malta Comic Con 2015

Graphic novel advocacy

“Starting from April 2016, on every Saturday at the Public Library, comic sessions were organised with the aim to promote comic book reading. These sessions focused on different stories and characters and showed the versatility of the medium by using different aspects of comics to teach various topics. In these sessions, guest speakers were invited to share their work and opinion on the genre. There was a huge response during these sessions, which prompted us to help the Public Library to buy more comics through the crowd funding campaign on www.zaar.com.mt, which is still in progress.”

How to help

“People interested to help create the Graphic Novels Library can donate to the crowd-funding campaign (http://www.zaar.com.mt/projects/comics-for-the-public-library-phase-1/) and support GNLM on Facebook. People can also donate any comics or graphic novels they want to GNLM so that we can include them with the collection at the Public Library. As an NGO, we are always on the lookout for people who wish to join us, either by providing support through volunteering in our activities or helping us organize different events or activities. For further information, they can send us an email at [email protected] or contact us on Facebook on our page Graphic Novels Library Malta. Alternatively, they can also contact me personally at my workplace the University of Malta Library.” 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...